NEW ORLEANS – The NFC Champion 49ers were scattered about dozens of tables in a hotel ball room on Wednesday morning as reporters darted around the room asking questions.
Occupying a couple of tables in the middle were players like
The Injured Reserve is no place anyone wants to be when their team is making a Super Bowl run, but the trio of offensive weapons is happy to be doing its rehab together.
“Me, Kyle and Kendall are always in the training room just talking,” Manningham said. “Time passes faster and you train a little bit harder when you’re training with someone who’s injured. Knowing that everyone’s talking about getting back on the field, it pushes you just a little bit more. We hate injuries, but I’m glad that we can share that with each other.”
Manningham knows all about performing on football’s brightest stage. Last year in Super Bowl XLVI, Manningham made an iconic 38-yard catch while tiptoeing down the sideline, setting up the game-winning drive by the eventual champion New York Giants in the fourth quarter.
“It seems like a long time ago,” Manningham said.
For now, Manningham is getting around with the help of two crutches as he rehabs from a knee injury he suffered in Week 16 at Seattle.
Hunter and Williams, meanwhile, each suffered their season-ending injuries on the same play in Week 12 in New Orleans, on the same field where the 49ers will try to claim their sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history.
“It is crazy, but it’s something we can’t fix,” Hunter said. “It just happened. It was a freak accident, but we’ll be back from it and be ready to go when it’s time to come back.”
The three players aren’t the only ones on Injured Reserve. Respected veteran linebacker
All five 49ers have been at team headquarters in recent weeks as they gear up for a return to the field, and have also been there to celebrate the team’s victories over Green Bay and Atlanta in the playoffs. It’s a testament to the tight-knit culture fostered by Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff.
“It just shows the type of coach he is, just being a good coach and trying to include everybody,” Manningham said. “I feel like Coach Harbaugh, when it comes to a team, if someone stresses it like he does I want to see him. He knows what he’s doing.”
In fact, Williams said the 49ers have even become more than a football team, but a family.
“A lot of teams say that and they don’t really mean it,” Williams said. “Everyone who comes through the training room, they want it to be known that they know you’re a part of this, you know you’re a part of this. Literally everybody. You can ask anybody and they’ll tell you the same thing. I think that’s actually indicative of why we’re here right now, because of how close-knit our team is and how much guys actually care about each other.”
While the injured players won’t be on the field, they would earn a ring like the rest of their teammates who step between the lines on Sunday. And it would be well-deserved.
Still, you can’t take the competitor out of the player. Even if they are on the sidelines.
“I’m an athlete. I’m competitive; that’s me,” Manningham said. “I want to be playing. Since I can’t play, what can I ask for? I wouldn’t ask to be on a different team and not be playing in the Super Bowl. I get to watch my team.”